Juice Jackers: Public charging stations can put your cell phone's private info at risk

TAMPA - In this day and age, cell phones can be more valuable than your wallet when it comes to the information they contain about you.  Your personal data, including financial records, protected passwords, and private messages and photos are all often stored inside your phone.

Security consultants say hackers can steal the information you have on your phone as easily as a pickpocket poaches a wallet. But, unlike your wallet. protecting the information on your phone is simple. All you have to do if you follow our safety tips.

1.  Be Wary of Where You Plug In

Never plug your cell phone's USB cord into a device that you don't control, said Chris Clymer, a security consultant for Secure State, a Cleveland security firm. If you need to charge your phone or sync it, plug it into your own laptop or another source you know you can trust.

2. Avoid Travel Trouble

If you're at the airport, don't plug your USB cord directly into a dock at a charging station. Clymer said a hacker could install a device in the stations that would allow them to instantly steal data on your phone, like your personal pictures.

Instead, avoid the risk by bringing your phone's charger and plugging it into a traditional outlet.

Another simple solution to avoid getting hacked: turn your cell phone off before you plug it into a charging station. Clymer said you should follow the same advice if you need to charge your phone when in a rental car or at docking station in a hotel room.

3. Keep Your Personal Information Private

"People put a lot of things into their contacts, into their phones, that they probably shouldn't," said Clymer,  He said it's not a good idea to store passwords, credit card numbers or financial information on your phone. He said there are apps and programs you can install on your phone to help protect important information.

4.  Avoid Embarrassment

Along those same lines, if there is voice mail or photos you don't want anyone to see or hear, delete them. On the job, Clymer is paid to test the strength of the security on different devices. He said it's not hard for a hackers to make private pictures public.

"We've done forensic investigations before on phones and have definitely uncovered things that people don't want to be seen," he said.

5.  Keep It All In Perspective

Though a hacker could easily create, install and use a device at a public charging station to steal cell phone data, Clymer said he's unaware of anyone actually doing it. He also said hackers are more likely to use charging stations to steal information from individuals, not random groups of people.

"There's certainly executives, celebrities, that are more likely to be the victims of a targeted attack. (It's) something that certain people should be a little more cognizant of than others," he said.

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